2013 NFL off season: Rick's takes on the Panthers

USA TODAY Sports

For die-hard fans, the off-season seemingly lasts forever, and this one is no different. Another day, five more mocks, two more player visits, and on and on it goes... But, we're sitting now less than two weeks before the draft, and looking back at moves made by the Panthers so far in 2013 seems appropriate. Without further ado, I offer my perspective on some of the action that has taken place.

The Big Decisions - New GM and the fate of Ron Rivera:

I'll start with Rivera ... My take? I'm glad he gets another shot, and here's my reasoning.

When things went south last season, Rivera never quit and neither did the players. Injuries hurt, but they happen to every team. But the players that were left rallied behind their much maligned coaches and finished very strong, winning 5 of the last 6 ... culminating in a very satisfying win over the Saints in their house. The Big Cat rewarded the effort and loyalty of the players by giving Rivera another chance, albeit a last chance. From where I sit, the Panthers are too close to turning the corner to blow the team up at this point. I'm still a fan of Rivera, and I believe he can get the most out of his coaches and players in 2013. Many are skeptical of Rivera, and even more are skeptical of Shula as OC. I get that ... but I'm suspending my skepticism in favor of giving these guys one more shot.

My take on the Gettleman hire? I liked that he was a pro personnel expert, but didn't know much more about him at the time. Since then, I've been hugely impressed with his work thus far.

We (CSR faithful) haven't reached consensus on a nickname for Gettleman yet, so I'll use my favorite... The Getter. So who among you remembers the first FA signing by The Getter (I'm going to let you mull that over for awhile)? After spending a month or so Getting the lay of the land, so to speak, The Getter started pretty slowly and then put he pedal down in March. In early March, his three big moves were somewhat predictable cap casualties, releasing Ron Edwards, Gamble, and James Anderson. By April 10th, eleven UFAs had been signed, including Panther FAs Captain, DA, Senn, Hartsock and Dwan. The spree also included CBs Florence and DJ Moore, SS Mike Mitchell, LB Blackburn, and WRs Ginn and Hixon.

Wearing the handcuffs of severe cap issues, The Getter has upgraded the talent on the team without any splash or fanfare. The cuts mentioned above along with contract re-structures for Kalil and (most importantly) Gross have raised the Panthers out of cap hell ... at my last check, the Panthers had more available cap room ($7.3m) than 17 other franchises, considerably more than the Falcons ($1.7m) and Saints ($2.3m) ... way less than the Bucs though, currently sitting $36m under their cap (most in the league).

Oh, that first FA signing was Colin Cole, a 7-year vet that hasn't played in two seasons. WTF was the first reaction, but I found it intriguing enough to dig into a bit. Before being let go by the Seahawks after having ankle surgery in 2011, Cole (6'4", 328lb NT) was a highly productive run stopper/space eater, starting alongside Mebane. If he's in shape, Cole could step into the Ron Edwards role, "filling the gap" until we find the right guy for the future. Also signed early was WR James Shaw, who remains in the WTF classification for me.

One-Year Contracts:

My take on this phenomenon is ... everybody's doing it. Agents are advising players to take these deals in "hopes" that the market will be better in 2014. How does that work, exactly? Out of 284 FA signings so far this off-season for all teams, 155 have been one-year deals. Breaking that down to the players that Spotrac considers "priority FAs," then out of 73 signings, 18 signed one-year deals, and another 13 signed for two years. Based on these numbers, it seems to me there's going to be an even more buyer friendly market next year.

The Draft:

My take?... I have no freaking idea who The Getter will choose. I expect a lot of trades in the top 3rd of Round 1, all based off of the big three OTs. But, I think they'll all be in front of us. I can't see a player being at 14 that would prompt a trade up by another team, but you never know. The good news is that The Getter has the team in position to draft BPA at need positions, with the opportunity for rookies to sit and learn behind vets. A future #1 WR, LT, NT, UT, SS, FS, and/or a good OG. It will be exciting to watch. What we don't get this year, we'll have to find in 2014.

Last Words:

  • I felt disappointed by Keenan Allen's pro day. I just can't get behind taking a guy that has a history of lingering injuries. I mean, I've never heard an excuse that the knee is 100%, but the surrounding muscles are 75%. When he's rehabbing the knee, isn't he working the muscles? Confused ... hopping on the Hopkins train.
  • I watched some highlights of Bruce Campbell's games at Maryland. There's a shizzle-load of potential there.
  • Extend the Kraken ... Please!

I hope you were able to take something from my takes, and I look forward to your comments. 1-2-3 Go...

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